It’s not easy to review a play when the theme is intense– political unrest, and the social chaos that results.. This was the thread underlying “Mein hoon Yusuf, aur yeh hai mera bhai”, which I watched at Ranga Shankara on 8th November 2015. Two theatre groups collaborated in this production.
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The action of the play is set against the background of the conflict in Palestine. It’s January 1948, and the British Mandate is ending. There is a lot of conflict over how the Palestine pie will be cut up. In a small village, Ali’s love for Nada faces difficulties because her father objects; Ali’s brother Yusuf is the village fool, and this is a big obstacle. Rufus is an English soldier, who longs for his homeland. As war breaks out, the audience watches how lands are lost, and villagers become refugees.
Nada blames Yusuf for her father’s death; they are separated when their village is destroyed. Ali and Yusuf go in search of Nada…through the war, and Time itself. Finally, the secret behind Yusuf’s odd ness is revealed; both guilt and forgiveness play their part.
The cast were excellent in their histrionics. Each scene was sensitively portrayed (I will mention names at the end, so will not refer to individual names here.) Both Yusuf and Nada are represented by their past and future selves; this makes for an interesting interplay of personalities. The haunting music that Nada sings, every now and then, was a memorable part of the play.
The lighting throughout the production was very professional. Highlighting the denouement of the play, it also served to segregate various scenes and places of action. Short scenes in which a procession of people, bearing pots on their heads, slowly moves across the stage to the accompaniment of haunting music by Nada, were very effective in setting the mood of a people torn apart by war.
The costumes were also well-designed, with the flowing lines of Mid-eastern clothing being highlighted. The sound was executed perfectly; of course, the great acoustics of the Ranga Shankara auditorium helped. The machine-gun fire in some scenes were truly horrifying, taking the audience into an almost-real war situation.
The direction was subtle, and resulted in well-rehearesed, smooth production values, where the cast and crew worked as a whole to produce a unified whole. I suppose much of good direction takes place before the staging of a show!
The stage management was also excellent; entrances, exits, change of scenes by the addition or removal of stage properties, was well-rehearsed and carried out by the cast themselves. The properties, consisting of the many small appertuances of daily village life, were well-conceived; there was nothing too intricate.
Given this kind of support from the cast and crew, it was indeed disappointing to see that the narrative, instead of leaving something to the audience’s imagination, insisted on dragging the emotional interactions to their extreme, much in the manner of a Bollywood melodrama.I felt that the production could have been shortened…the end point, to my mind, was reached in the penultimate scene, and the final one was a bit of a letdown from this high point. But…I suppose this is easy for a playgoer to say, and the playwright/director had his own reasons for including it.
A very well-designed and printed brochure heightened my ability to cogitate later about the play. Though the cast and crew were introduced after the play, such an introduction often happens too fast to catch individual names, and it was good to have the brochure handy to refresh one’s memory, when one thought back to the play and analysed one’s reaction to it.
After the production, the award for the best director was announced by Arundhati Nag, and Mohit Takalkar, the director of this play,who has already won many other awards, was chosen. Perhaps the award was unanimous on the judges’ part, but the selection seemed to have been done before the staging of the Youth Yuga festival, and I found the mutual back-slapping of the luminaries on the stage a little cloying. Personally, many of us in the audience would have voted for directors of other plays in the festival..but perhaps this is a matter of individual preference.
Mein Hoon Yusuf Aur Yeh Hai Mera Bhai by Aasakta and D for Drama
- 115 Minutes .Tickets: Rs 200
- Playwright: Amir Nizar Zuabi
- Translation: Salima Raza
- Design and Direction: Mohit Takalkar
- Light Design: Pradeep Vaiddya
- Costume Design: Rashmi Rode
- On Sound: Darshan Pataknkar
- Stage Manager: Vinayak Lele
- Costume Assistance: Devika Kale
- Light Assistance: Vikrant Thakkar
- Publicity Design: Tushar Tajane of Turtle Designs
- Brochure Design: Kreative Wings
- Publicity Stills: Shriram Patki, Jay Ji
- Production Manager: Alap Vaidya
- Production Assistance: Hrishikesh Pujari, Jayesh Newgi, Suyog Deshpande
- Calligraphy: Bhalchandra Limaye
- Set Execution: Amey Bhaleroad, Rajesh Jadhav, Udhav Bhise, Arun Mayacharya
- Rehearsal Documentation: Hrishikesh Pujari
- Yusuf: Ajeet Singh Palawat
- Ali: Jitendra Joshi
- Nada/Dead Refugee: Mrinmayee Godbole
- Nagi/ Dead Refugee: Sandeep Shikhar
- Old Yusuf/Villager: Ashish Mehta
- Rufus/Villager: Ninaad Mahajani
- Old Nada/Old Hag/Villager/WaterWoman/Dead Refugee: Ipshita Chakraborty
- Man with a tree/Man from Haifa/Villager/Dead Refugee: Sagar Deshmukh
- Woman from Haifa/Villager/Dead Refugee: Trupti Khamkar
- Dalia/Villager/Dead Refugee: Tejaswaini Barwe
- Abu Salhe/Villager: Jayesh Newgi
- Baseer: Hrishikesh Pujari
- Ad Al Rahman: Alap Vaidya
- Abu Akhram: Vinayak Lele